Did you know that you can be charged and convicted of a criminal offence even if you are driving under the legal limit for alcohol in Ontario?

An impaired driving conviction due to alcohol and/or drugs (including cannabis) has serious consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life – including harming future employment prospects, immigration status, and freedom of travel.

Even a first offence has serious ramifications. That’s why simply accepting the charge and thinking you’ll pay the penalty and move on should never be the best option for you.

Many cases get thrown out and charges are dropped.

At Affordable Defence in Ottawa, our impaired driving lawyers will protect your rights and work to ensure that the consequences of an impaired driving charge do not impact the rest of your life.

What are the penalties for a first impaired driving conviction?

If you are charged with impaired driving for the first time, you will face administrative penalties under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act as well as criminal penalties.

The criminal penalties under the Canadian Criminal Code were updated in 2019 and may include the following:

  • A fine of $550
  • Up to a maximum of 10 years in jail (if no injury or death is caused)
  • Where bodily harm is caused, a maximum sentence of up to 14 years
  • Where death is caused, a maximum sentence of life imprisonment

Providing no injury or death was caused as a result of your actions and you are represented by a competent impaired driving lawyer, it is unlikely you will spend time in jail for a first offence. However, that won’t apply if you are convicted of subsequent offences.

For a second offence, there is a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail and for a third offence, the minimum sentence is 120 days in jail. It can also lead to a lifetime driving suspension.

You will also face the following penalties for a first offence:

  • A 7-day vehicle impoundment
  • A mandatory 90-day licence suspension (up to one year)

A $275 licence reinstatement fee

Are there any other penalties if convicted of impaired driving in Ottawa?

Ottawa Ontario DUI Peanlties, Laws & ChargesThe punishments may already seem harsh for impaired driving – but there are additional measures imposed by the authorities to bear in mind too.

Convicted drivers must complete a remedial measures assessment and education or treatment program for approximately 10 months. Generally, this is the Ministry of Transportation’s “Back on Track” assessment.

You may also be required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) on any vehicle you want to drive. This is a device that prevents the vehicle’s engine from starting unless the driver registers a zero reading for alcohol from the in-built breath test. More about this below.

As of January 2019, if you are stopped and caught driving within the warning range (0.05 to 0.079 BAC) three or more times, you may also need to drive with an Ignition Interlock device fitted in your vehicle, as well as other penalties (fine and licence suspension).

Finally, you can expect to pay significant insurance hikes if you are convicted – another of the long-term consequences faced by those found guilty of impaired driving in Ottawa.

Can you get early reinstatement of a suspended license in Ontario?

The Highway Traffic Act allows for early reinstatement of a suspended licence, providing you are eligible for the Ignition Interlock Device program.

This can be a good outcome for those who depend on their vehicle for transport, work, and normal family life – but it is not without its challenges.

Firstly, the option is not available to everybody. It must be your first or second impaired or over 80 driving offence – or refusal of a breath sample. Additionally, there must be no aggravating circumstances present (injury or death or the involvement of drugs).

Your fines must be fully paid up and you must not be under any other driving suspensions. You must also complete the assessment component of the remedial measures program and be prepared to pay the costs of leasing and fitting an approved device in your vehicle.

Providing you are eligible, the program will start after serving at least part of your license suspension and can be imposed for anywhere from nine months (first offence) to lifetime (this may be possible for a third offence if you have not been permanently banned from driving).

The IID program is divided into three streams, according to whether it is your first or second driving offence.

Immediate roadside suspensions in Ontario

With the immediate roadside sanctions rules that have been introduced in Ontario, the drink-driving laws here are becoming progressively stricter.

These rules mean that a driver will receive an immediate roadside licence suspension of three, seven or 30 days (depending on whether it is the first, second or third time) if:

  • He or she refuses to submit to a breath test, or
  • If a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 50-79 milligrams is recorded in the breath test (a “warn” level)

Of course, if the reading is over 80 milligrams, you will be arrested and charged with driving over the legal limit too.

For drivers 21 and under, if any alcohol is detected in the breath, an immediate 24-hour roadside licence suspension is imposed. If convicted, a fine of up to $500 and a 30-day licence suspension may apply and the driver must restart the graduated licence system.

Affordable defence for impaired driving charges in Ontario

You need to respond quickly and positively to any charge of impaired driving in Ontario, and it’s important to have a clear understanding of your legal options.

At Affordable Defence in Ottawa, our skilled criminal lawyers can protect your rights and freedoms and defend you against your charge.

Contact us for a free case evaluation.